Friday, April 20, 2007

Blazing Funnels

All you need to know about the Alabama state hating and Automotive Purchase Funnel inventing Art Spinella's 458 the Dust to Dust energy report, an eclectic mix of emails, cartoons, photographs of classic cars and endless, endless tables of makes and models and dollars -- is that Myron Ebell referenced it. Now you know it's very bad.

Let's begin with the reference:
"The fact is, most of these products sold as 'green' cost more than the alternative," says Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank that dismisses climate-change warnings as scare tactics not based on sound science. "You're already pricing people at the lower end out."
The logic already fails for long-life lightbulbs that last six times longer, use five times less power, but cost twice as much, so you can't afford that extra packet of cigarettes today if you buy one. Ebell always stands up for the lower-enders' right to get screwed. Continues the article:
He cites a study by an automotive research group, CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore., that calculated total energy use for several car models. Ebell says the overall energy outlay for the Prius — from design to the junkyard — is costlier "than for an SUV like my Chevy TrailBlazer. It takes a huge amount of energy just to fabricate those batteries."
Ahhh, that old made-in-Moraine TrailBlazer which comes with a 291hp/277ft-lbs all-aluminum 4.2 L "Atlas" LL8 inline-six engine standard and an optional 302hp/330ft-lbs aluminum small-block 5.3 L V8 with Active Fuel Management. The inline-six makes the TrailBlazer the most powerful six-cylinder SUV in its class. The Active Fuel Management system on the V8 engine shuts off 4 of the 8 cylinders during highway travel and idle to save fuel. The 6-cylinder versions of the TrailBlazer get up to 20 miles per gallon highway, according to refreshed EPA estimates. The TrailBlazer can tow up to 6,800 lb, which gives it a huge advantage over unibody crossover SUVs. Expected to burn 12 thousand gallons of gasoline in its lifetime of moving our children.

Well, that explains Ebell's amazing leap of creativity last year when he said:
"[GM is] one of the companies that has lead the way in developing a new internal combustion engine that, when it's idling or just sitting, some of the cylinders will turn off. So, for example, if you had an eight cylinder engine and you were just sitting at a stop sign, six of the cylinders would stop and there would be just two of the cylinders keeping the thing going until you needed it, which would save a huge amount of fuel for people who drive in stop-go traffic."
That's the problem with uber-Capitalism; as Spinella's analysis inadvertently demonstrated, it directly favours technological stagnation according to all measures since "Designing and developing new vehicles and/or updating old ones are among the most energy expensive parts of the new-vehicle production process."(p.179)

The study purports to analyze the "real energy cost" per lifetime ownership of each make of car in great detail, and then lump mental energy, muscular energy, and toxic fossil fuel energy into one single dollar amount figure to put it into friendly consumer terms. The wholistic approach takes account of the fact that Germans use public transport to get to the car factory and need high wages to fund their welfare state, while Yanks prefer to hold a futile traffic jam on the way to their common work-place until their jobs go to Mexico.

Not only does the report entirely fail to feature the words traffic congestion and its real cost, there's no concept of air pollution, which kills and thickens as massively as smoking. Or has lead suddenly become good for you? Maybe they can't be bothered to reduce life down to a dollar amount, because it would ruin their figures, since most of us out here at the lower-end value our lives more than the big business guys do.

So, if you ignore the toxic air pollution, the huge penalties against deploying new technology, the long term climate change, storms, droughts and sea-level rise, dying young because you haven't got enough exercise, and the mindless drive to fetishize cheap-to-make trash because it's bright and has a lot of chrome, Have you hugged your Hummer today?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity

The fine article by Michael Shnayerson in Vanity Fair has made it to the web. In it, Michael Mann aptly summed up the main issue with the CEI:
"I've never seen any evidence that they have any interest in being intellectually honest."
We see what it looks like to turn the tables on Ebell. Rather than get the science from the scientists, and then take it to him for a good kicking, it's done the other way round:
Mainstream scientists say that, along with a warming atmosphere, our oceans are heating up, too. "I think that's made up," Ebell says. "I understand that the oceans are primarily heated by direct solar radiation. I do not understand how—beyond just the surface—they are heated by the warming up of the atmosphere. It seems to me that the atmosphere would have to warm up significantly above the previous level before that radiation could actually heat up the ocean."

"That's the most preposterous bullshit I've ever heard," exclaims Tom Wigley, another senior scientist at NCAR and co-author of a new study on ocean warming. "Perhaps that would be the case if the oceans didn't move. But the ocean is continually moving, horizontally and vertically, and continually mixing heat down to the depths. The top 100 meters has warmed about the same amount as the atmosphere—about one and a half degrees Fahrenheit. The deeper ocean warms much more slowly, but each degree increase in atmospheric temperature does propagate down.… In fact, the amount of warming agrees exceptionally well with what computer models say should have happened." Wigley says the models suggest that the rate of ocean warming in the 21st century will probably be four times greater than in the 20th century.

Ebell has a phrase for such predictions. Computer models for predicting climate, he says, "don't even pass the laugh test."

Wigley is astonished: "Does he think modeling is a hoax? Has he ever tried to talk to people about this?, I wonder. Or is he just having a guess?" Wigley observes that scientists have charted actual weather data from the 20th century, then programmed computer models to see how well the models predict the weather that actually occurred. "There are hundreds of papers," says Wigley, "showing that models do a fantastically good job."
It would be a surprise if Ebell has ever talked to a working scientist to find out what it was they did. He thinks they do what he does: sit at the desk and make up stuff without regard for its fallacy. Actually meeting scientists would get in the way of slandering them, as he does to James Hansen, asserting that he is not qualified to pronounce on the science because he
"...was not trained as a climate scientist... He was trained as an astronomer. He's a physicist. His dissertation was on the atmosphere of Venus, and he has applied what he's learned in physics and in astronomy to become a climate scientist, but you know from him talking about species' going north, he knows nothing about biology."

The more you know, the less credible you are. Just like a heart surgeon who is going to perform no better in the field when called to do an emergency leg amputation than any Tom, Dick, or Myron with a second-class dishonours degree in lying, obviously.

He's done this before:
Not long after, Ebell stirred the wrath of the British Parliament by declaring in a BBC radio interview that the U.K.'s chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, had made a "ridiculous claim" on global warming despite knowing "nothing about climate science." The House of Commons proposed a motion to censure Ebell. (The motion never passed, Ebell says wistfully.)
... not pointing out that -- as he well knows -- it was an Early Day Motion which acts like a petition. It does not pass even if 100% of MPs sign it. As it happened, it got 10%, so was above average considering that there are hundreds per year and many MPs don't participate.

And so it goes on, ad nauseous. Ebell is not handsome. His glasses are silly. He is not elegant. And he is not a nerd. Nerds can be smelly, boring, and rude, but they don't lie. Myron can shave and wear a suit well enough to get on TV, but is otherwise too talentless to find an honest job that doesn't involve selling out his children and children's children for last year's profits at Exxon. After so many years of accusing scientists of talking rubbish and of being financially motivated in forming their theories, it is natural that he could never get a job as a scientist, even though those are his exact talents.

Humans are creatures of habit. We don't consider the alternatives. We are doomed.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Happy Birthday Myron

A gift to you from Kurt Vonnegut, who died yesterday:
When the last living thing

has died on account of us,

how poetical it would be

if Earth could say,

in a voice floating up


from the floor

of the Grand Canyon,

"It is done."

People did not like it here.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Barely held by the law

Last week the Supreme court ruled in Massachessetts vs. EPA that the point of the Environmental Protection Agency was to Protect the Environment, even if it meant regulating car mileage standards in a way that would have a barely positive impact on the environment. The Bush-appointed extremists, in the minority this time, argued, among other farts, that since the state of Massachessetts hadn't declared which exact plots of land they were going to lose through rising sea levels, they had no case to bring.

Le Magazine Cretin published a response by Myron Ebell.
"This Supreme Court decision," he explains, "now will cause many people in business and industry — many of whom have been calling for global warming legislation anyway because they hope to get rich off of it by raising energy prices — many of them now who have been opposed will say, 'Well, we need to short-circuit the EPA process, and we need Congress to give us some kind of system to regulate emissions that we can actually live with, not some crazy thing dreamed up by EPA.'"

... In rendering their decision, Ebell adds, the Supreme Court justices have basically said Congress did not know that by passing the Clean Air Act it was giving the EPA regulatory authority over everything in the air — or, as dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia put it, "anything from frisbies to flatulence."
Left unconsidered as a motivational influence for behavior is, of course, the human instinct for survival. Apparently, you only support regulation of fossil fuels that inject such a significant quantity of new carbon into the biosphere that the atmospheric concentration doubled in a century, because:
  • (a) You are going to make a lot of money out of the inevitably flawed regulatory process;

  • (b) You need to restrain the world's leading economy so that your weak welfare-state European economy can catch up, which it never will;

  • (c) You are an extreme lefty with an irrational hatred for the capitalist system and all its successes;

  • (d) You are stupid.
Now, if you ask most people's opinion about why they support immediate and powerful regulation on this subject, instead of taking Myron's word for it, it can be summed up by:
  • Since all the best experts in the world have predicted -- and shown their early predictions to be true -- that Business as Usual will likely lead to a massive die-off in the era of our children's children, something has got to be done if we care about their lives.
Anyway, why not consider change? It's not as if our lifestyles have gotten much happier in the last 30 years, given the amount of once-only resource depletion, the perpetual warfare, and the unprecedented decline in third world affluence that has occurred.

Maybe it's not working anyway, and climate change is the overwhelming reason why things have to change. No one invented it to justify change. Only people as dishonest as those who get hired by the CEI could: (a) assert that, and (b) suggest that when you have two good reasons to do something, the argument gets weaker.

Meanwhile, the moron who hosted an interview with Chris Horner, one of Myron's pals, began with the latest crazy screwed-up round of lies to emerge: It's all the fault of the sun!

You see, even though none of our satellites in orbit for the last fifty years have detected unexplained changes in solar intensity, there has been atmospheric warming on the distant planets of Mars and Jupiter, measured by some unspecified instruments on some imaginary space probes, so therefore it could happen here right under our nose, not due to the obvious physical laws of thermodynamics.

When are the children going to rise up and put a stop to these policies that are killing the future they have to live in? In order to do so, they have to fully comprehend the following words of wisdom:
Age and treachery will defeat youth and skill.
The entire economic system which they are born into, with its front-loading of debt, gratuitously low-wages for the young, and the massively over-priced stock of property in the hands of the old, is designed to strip them of their youthful vigour and make them work like slaves. Climate change is the ultimate expression of the war between the generations.

We want our lives of great extravagance, and we don't care what shape it leaves the apartment in for the next round of tenants.

If there was any justice in the world, they would come round to us later and demand reparations. Unfortunately, we will be safely dead by then, so there won't be anything they could do to make us pay.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

It was always going to come to this

With Ebell now the whipping boy of many blogs, and universally derided at every engagement that doesn't involve having dinner with Bjorn Crichton, what is this white-painted piece of petroleum ooze to do? Let's just listen to the tune here:
Climate change has ecological effects," Ebell conceded matter-of-factly. But he went on to question the assumption that nature is in some sort of permanent "balance," noting that long-holding temperature trends have also broken the other way, toward cooling.

"Frost-free Florida is no longer frost-free," said Ebell. The Sunshine State’s struggling citrus industry was one example of the environmental lobby’s selectivity in citing damaging ecosystem changes only when they point toward warming, he added.
Go on and overstate the opposition's case, why don't you? Nobody said anything about a "permanent" balance. The science says that there has been a temporary period of good stability, a window during which time human beings have been able to build up their awesome civilization. Nobody is sure if it will survive through a major disruption. Many civilizations don't, and many people will die off.

Also, we have the usual deliberate misinterpretation of the word global in the phrase global warming, which is to say that the total temperature of the ecosphere -- an entity which Ebell's economic theory bogusly assumes is infinite -- is rising, causing the climate to change. And don't forget, all examples of climactic effects are limited to mainland USA. Never ever mention anything in the rest of the world. It was unfortunate that his opponent had been infected with Ebellian economic theory, when he said:
"Do we do nothing?" Cannon asked. "Do we wait? Do we allow the economy to grow, to generate wealth for future generations so they can better deal with [warming]?"
without illustrating how the burning of oil today in order to grow fat and fly tasty lard in from New Zealand can do anything for the future generations. Reasonable people usually live frugally and invest in college degrees in order to pass wealth on to their descendants. "Wait for the economy to grow." How? By buying SUVs? That'll only make money for Exxon, won't it? They are the major component of what we call "the economy". How they being more rich improves life for anyone else is something that cannot be explained, only asserted.

Whether the "wealth" makes it to the generation beyond is another matter, particularly if life starts to turn hard.

None of this matters. Ebell has already won. He has managed to delay action for this crucial decade when something could have happened. The growth in oil profits has helped to lock-in the most regressive vested interests into positions of supremacy over our current state of governance. We now really are screwed. Our hands are tied behind our back, and our legs are buried in the sand, and the tide is coming in. It's curtains...
<<But the sea level is always changing, sometimes twice a day. You don't know everything about how tides work, particularly when the moon is on the other side of the planet, and cannot be pulling to water up. The actual rising of the water is not obvious. There are these waves going up and down, with much greater variability than the tide. If you are lucky, you can keep breathing in the troughs between the waves, even when your mouth and nose is below the average level of the water. Because of the disturbance, you cannot be certain that it was the tide that drowned you. It'll just be a wave that fills your lungs. And waves happen all the time.>>